Remember the useless machine from a couple years back? You know, the device with a switch that activated an arm that flipped its own switch? For better or for worse, I couldn't help but think of that paradoxical box when I saw Zelf Koelman's "Switch Candle"... which, ironically enough, is something like a useful version of the same. Bearing a crown of five tealights, the curious-looking object functions as a dimmable candle. I won't ruin it for you; just watch:
Koelman describes the "Switch Candle" as a comment on "how we perceive artificial light, how we interact with it and how we should not forget the amount of energy light needs to shine."
For ages we have put much effort in keeping on the fire at night to extend the day and keeping us warm and safe. Since the invention of electric light sources, I believe we lost track of how much effort and energy it really takes to keep us awake.
Of course, the highly refined aesthetic of the "Switch Candle" is a clue as to Koelman's Northern European heritage: although he created the project during this past semester at Carnegie Mellon University, Koelman originally hails from Maastricht and is currently enrolled in the Industrial Design program at Eindhoven University of Technology. The seemingly simple mechanism belies the engineering wizardry behind it:
Candles are lit and extinguished in random. The lamp will automatically ignite new candles if the candles run out of wax and if they are available. The lamp checks if it needs to ignite a new candles by measuring the weight of each candle. In case the lamp runs out of full candles it will sense when the user puts a new candle in one of its sockets, and will immediately ignite the new candles to the amount set by the knob.
Naturally, Koelman's "Switch Candle" isn't intended to be a lamp so much as it's a thought experiment in interactive lighting. As in the useless machine, the kinetic element suggests activation energy, while the quantized dimmer and weight sensors evoke a sort of 'digitalness.' The absurdity is the precisely the point: these circuitous or otherwise excessive physical mechanisms are intended to reflect the unseen cost of creating light.